Minkah Fitzpatrick changed the face of the Steelers secondary from the minute he was traded to Pittsburgh from the Miami Dolphins in 2019.
With the transaction going down in-season, Fitzpatrick had very little prep time before taking the field in Black & Gold. But just like that, he turned what was once a porous secondary into a fearsome unit.
Five Fitzpatrick interceptions followed — one for a game-winning 96-yard touchdown versus the 5-2 Indianapolis Colts. Midway through the season, quarterbacks simply stopped throwing in the direction of the Steelers’ shutdown safety.
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Minkah Fitzpatrick Earns Comparison to Ed Reed
Minkah Fitzpatrick’s impact cannot be denied. Since his Steelers debut in Week 3 of 2019, Pittsburgh’s coverage defense has been one of the best.
“The Pittsburgh defense has been on another level since Fitzpatrick came on board, regardless of what the coverage they throw at you,” said ESPN analyst Dan Orlovsky on NFL Live. “Pittsburgh has allowed the lowest completion rate in both man and zone coverage. The Steelers D also ranks among the best in QBR and yards per dropback allowed in those schemes. They’re tough to reckon with.”
It’s Fitzpatrick’s confusion-causing style of play that Orlovsky says is game-changing. Some people call it FitzMagic.
“At the snap, is he going back towards the sideline, back towards the middle of the field? Is he dropping down? Is it single high? Is it two high safety? And he’s constantly lying to the quarterbacks with his pre-snap and post-snap disguise. And it maybe doesn’t force one mistake on that play, but what it does is you start to play slower and slower and slower as a quarterback with trusting your eyes and the things that you’re seeing.”
Performances like that will get you compared to one of the best to play the game.
“It forces hesitation, and then it catches up to you later in the game. [Fitzpatrick’s] very Ed Reed-like when it comes to that position. I think that’s what he really brings as a secondary, as a safety player, and why that Steelers defense has gotten so much better since he got there.”
Safety Ed Reed terrorized Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers offense for 11 loooooong seasons in a Baltimore Ravens uniform. The rivals were split at nine games apiece while Reed racked up a laundry list of stats: 74 combined tackles (seven for loss), 11 defended passes, four recovered fumbles (55 yards) and six interceptions (125 yards).
Reed was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on the first ballot. If Fitzpatrick keeps up his All-Pro ways, he’ll be there, too.
Worthy of Historic Deal
It wasn’t long after Fitzpatrick landed in Pittsburgh that he outplayed his contract. According to Over the Cap, the Steelers got him for a bargain-basement salary of $1.2 and $1.9 million in his first two seasons and $2.7 million in 2021. Those years combined are just shy of what his $4 million base salary will pay him in 2022.
In the 2023 season, Fitzpatrick’s extension kicks in, making him the highest-paid safety in the NFL — for a little while anyway.
The Steelers call it a five-year contract, factoring in the 2022 season, the final of his rookie deal. The new pact is a four-year extension worth $18.4 million per season, with $36 million guaranteed at signing.